TORONTO – Yesterday, Minister Morneau’s tabling of Federal Budget 2019, “Investing in the Middle Class”, has demonstrated the important strides the Liberal Government has taken to remedy First Nations historical inequity.
“I am pleased to see funding committed towards post-secondary education and skills development and training, with a particular focus on supporting our youth. This all aids in unhinging the First Nations labour market,” said Acting Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare.
Critical funding were left unaddressed, however, specifically regarding child welfare and additional housing and infrastructure supports. “This is a missed opportunity for the Trudeau government”, said AORC Hare, “And something the Chiefs of Ontario will continue to advocate to rectify – especially given the current crises in Ontario communities, such as in Cat Lake First Nation. When the Chiefs see children covered in rashes and people dying because of inadequate housing and infrastructure quality, we expect the Federal Government to do the right thing and rectify these immediate issues”.
Budget 2019 proposes the following investments that would have direct implications for First Nations such as:
- $1.2B over three years to continue to implement Jordan’s Principle and help ensure that all First Nations children can access the health, social, and educational services they need – when they need them;
- $327.5M over five years to enhance the Post-Secondary Student Support Program while the Government engages with First Nations on long-term First Nation-led post-secondary education models;
- More than $1B over five years to improve essential services on-reserve, such as clean drinking water, fire protection, emergency response and supports for residents with disabilities or chronic illnesses;
- $40M over five years to help First Nations research and develop their Specific Claims, and a commitment to renew and replenish funding for the Specific Claims Settlement Fund for a further three years; and
- Up to $100M to establish an Indigenous Growth Fund to further encourage investments in Indigenous-led businesses by Aboriginal Financial Institutions, including for First Nations entrepreneurs.
While there was no mention in the Budget of child welfare funding commitments, we see hope through the funding commitment to implement Jordan’s Principle over the next three years.
Budget 2019 proposes to invest an additional $739M over five years to continue to tackle boil water advisories, beginning in 2019/2020, with $184.9M per year ongoing. This investment will support ongoing efforts to eliminate and prevent long-term drinking water advisories – funding urgent repairs to vulnerable water systems, and providing water operator training and support programs.
“There is no doubt that the work done to end boil water advisories is a reflection of the legacy of former Minister Philpott’s commitment to systematic change in Canada’s approach to First Nations’ service delivery. There is still much work ahead. Though Minister O’Regan has only held the portfolio a short while, he has picked up where Minister Philpott has left off. I will be speaking with Minister O’Regan about the contents of Budget 2019, and will continue to press he and his government to make the firm commitments in both child welfare and the additional housing and infrastructure investments we need”, said AORC Hare.
“While Budget 2019 is short on specifics, I was encouraged by the proposed investment in economic development through the Indigenous Growth Fund. With proper input from First Nations, such a venture should provide more opportunity to create sustainable revenue and business ventures for First Nations in Ontario. I look forward to working with this Government and Chiefs in Ontario to ensure commitments made will be properly implemented.”